Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Bleak House

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

I read Great Expectations in high school and thought I hated it. Upon further reflection, I think I did not understand it. I then mistakenly avoided reading anything else by Dickens for decades. In 2008, I read A Tale of Two Cities and absolutely loved it. Shortly thereafter, I read A Christmas Carol and was delighted. Then for some reason, I neglected to read anything by Dickens for years. What a shame!

Kansas Dad doesn't care to read Dickens, something about the detriment of reading a book by someone who was paid by the word, but I love the language of Bleak House.
She stands looking at him as he writes on, all unconscious and only her fluttering hands give utterance to her emotions. But they are very eloquent; very, very eloquent. Mrs Bagnet understands them. They speak of gratitude, of joy, of grief, of hope; of inextinguishable affection, cherished with no return since this stalwart man was a stripling...
The novel attacks treatment of the poor, ridiculous enthrallment with charity work for the benefit of the servant rather than the poor, and most of all Chancery, where court cases drag on for years, draining people of estates and hope. It's interesting how often these same issues remain prominent a hundred and fifty years later. How little society learns!

Education is not a major theme of the book, mentioned only peripherally, but of course those are mentions I notice particularly.
He had been eight years at a public school, and had learnt, I understood, to make Latin Verses of several sorts, in the most admirable manner. But I never heard that it had been anybody's business to find out what his natural bent was, or where his failings lay, or to adapt any kind of knowledge to him. He had been adapted to the Verses, and had learnt the art of making them to such perfection, that if he had remained at school until he was of age, I suppose he could only have gone on making them over and over again, unless he had enlarged his education by forgetting how to do it. Still, although I had no doubt that they were very beautiful, and very improving, and very sufficient for a great many purposes of life, and always remembered all through life, I did doubt whether Richard would not have profited by some one studying him a little, instead of his studying them quite so much.
A ready-made introduction to a discussion of Charlotte Mason's first principle of education!

I borrowed this book from the library and loved the Penguin Classics hardcover edition. It is beautifully bound.

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